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“Hills like White Elephants,” written by Ernest Hemingway is a short story about a young girl and her man waiting for a train and discussing the girl’s abortion. In the story, the man has the name the American and the girls called Jig. They are waiting for a train to Madrid. While in the stations, different events take place as highlighted by the author of the story where the girl highlights that the nearby trees in the stations resemble white elephants. The American responds by stating that he has never come across white elephants. The two characters (the American and Jig) continue ordering more drinks while in the station while having their discussion (Gillette, 2007).
While in the stations taking beer, their conversation is smooth until when the American proposes that Jig should undergo an operation of which he does not specify. Jig is curious of the operation that the American wants her to undergo. The American downplays the operation’s seriousness where he states that the procedure is not even an operation at all. Jig has some worries while admitting to the thought by the American about the operation. Later she asks what will happen to her after undergoing through the operation (Gillette, 2007). Confidently, the man responds to her query stating that they would be happy afterwards just as they were initially after fixing their mess. He supports his thought about the operation stating that he is aware of many people who had their happiness back after undertaking the operation.
Jig fears hurting the American and decides to give in to his thought of the operation as long as he will continue loving her and they will live happily after the operation. Later, a conflict emerges between the two while in the station when the American states that he cares about the girl (Gillette, 2007). Jig responds to the American by stating that he rarely cares about what happens to her. She walks away from him and decides to end of the station where she looks at the scenery wondering whether they would be happy after the operation (Tyler, 2001). They continue arguing until she is unable to take anymore and makes the American promise stop talking to her. In this story, the main idea as brought out by Ernest Hemingway is about abortion. This on the other hand leads to conflicts between characters involved in the story. The essay focuses on the conflicts encountered by the characters in the story.
Central conflict between characters in the short story
While focusing on the central conflict between Jig and the American in the story, I think that it has a basis on balance between personal needs. The situation that the characters find themselves has a gender basis where the man and the girl hold their differences in opinions about their pregnancy and their relationship. The conflict between the American and Jig depends on how a relationship makes demands on their personal freedom. There is some struggle in the characters while adapting to how the constraints of the relationship exacts their personal freedom.
Internal conflict emerges as they try to adapt to their ‘happiness’ reality. Their idea of what is best for their relationship acts as their guide in the decision they make on the issue of the pregnancy (Tyler, 2001). The American continues stating that whatever Jig wants is fine to him. This aimed at showing her that he is not to object anything that she wants despite being against to his wish. However, at the end, reality dawns to both that despite their personal freedom and independence being present in their relationship, their relationship needs their personal attention as well. A conflict appears between personal freedom and relationship needs when Jig remains undecided to the fact that the relationship will swallow her personal freedom (Gillette, 2007).
The author of the story does not reveal the source of conflict between the two characters in the story. However, there is an implication in the story that the conflict has its center being the decision of abortion. There is an underlying conflict between the American and Jig. The American appears confident about the issue of abortion. According to how he states it, he is not as reluctant as Jig. He states”…it is a very simple operation, Jig… it is really not an operation at all… they let the air in and it is all perfectly natural…” With the words, it is so clear that the American wanted Jig to undergo through the operation so that they would have their initial happiness back.
However, while looking at Jig’s perspective, she is undecided about the whole idea of the operation (abortion) (Tyler, 2001). She is inquisitive and appears worried of what will happen to her after the operation. In addition, during this time when the American is insisting that the girl should undergo through the operation, the fact that abortion is not legal in Spain is playing in Jig’s mind. With this in her mind, it is true that for it to take place, she has to do it herself or leave the American to do it himself. The whole operation is not only illegal in Spain but also places her at a risk of other infections. Therefore, while determining on the fate of the thought of abortion by the American, she places herself at a conflict with her thoughts undecided whether to take the risk of undergoing the operation (Gillette, 2007).
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Lastly, based under abortion, there is a conflict derived on the environment setting of the short story. While describing the hills near the station, Jig describes the hills behind them look like white elephants (Tyler, 2001). White elephant is a symbolic item used in the story. They symbolize something that no one wants to see similar with their unborn child. Jig asks to order beer with an attempt of changing the subject. This brings out a hidden conflict between them as the American states that he would wish to see the white elephants and Jig do not allow him to continue with the topic as she changes it quickly. This conflict between the two characters develops to their different perspectives and attitudes towards abortion (Gillette, 2007).
As seen from the essay, it is clear that in the story “Hills like White Elephants” is a short story with the characters facing different conflicts based under the central theme of abortion. Conflicts in this story are external. The author expresses the conflict between the American and Jig in a dialogue. The American man wants Jig to get the abortion, and he implies that all he wants in his life is she but no one else (Gillette, 2007). Despite Jig being unwilling to the idea of abortion, she forcefully admits to it believing that she will be able to live happily and get along better with the man. Divided interests and points of view in a relationship can lead to conflicts. This is as seen in the case of Jig and the American. In conclusion, it is quite clear that abortion is the central cause of conflict in the short story.
Tyler, L. (2001). Student companion to Ernest Hemingway. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press
Gillette, M. (2007). Modernism's scarlet letter: Plotting abortion in American fiction, 1900--1945. (Dissertation Abstracts International, 68-11.)
The short story: “The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield demonstrates the preoccupation of power, privilege and pride in one family moment in time.
Mansfield is a modernist who experiments the use of the third person to narrate the story from Laura’s point of view. She preferred the female perspective which is unique considering time period . The story also lacks structure and starts in the middle to allow the character’s history to form as the story progresses. The author focuses on the core of the plot on a particular moment in time to illustrate how insignificant events like garden parties can influence the perspectives of a single character, this is an aspect of realism. Laura’s view of the world is shaken by the death of Mr. Scott. His death causes her to evaluate her thoughts on relations about class in response to her family’s perspective on the subject.
Laura Sheridan is a naive and pampered girl who is accustomed to the privileges and comforts of life, associated with the upper middle class. She is determined to prove her pragmatism in contrast to her siblings. She is different from her mother who is extravagant and does not appreciate the simple pleasures in life. Laura is sensitive to the world around her and is compassionate towards people of the lower class. She is naïve about the perception of her family by other people which is evident in her ignorance when talking to the workmen.
Mr. Scott’s death shocks Laura to take action. She is deeply affected because he lived so close to the Sheridan property. Her family does not share the same concern. Laura considers it rude for her family to have a garden party and yet their neighbor has just passed. She starts to view them in a different light for their lack of empathy. Mrs. Sheridan is prejudiced against poor people like the Scott’s and feels irritated by their presence. She feels that the Scott home is a poor reflection on the Sheridan’s decadent property. Mansfield has strategically placed the Sheridan property near the poor people of wellington to illustrate the issues of class relations during the period post World War I. Mrs. Sheridan feels sorry for the Scott’s but does not want their misfortunes to affect her family affairs, so she proceeds with the garden party.
Laura is conflicted with her own feelings but decides to go on with the garden party. She dismisses the issue of Mr. Scott’s death quickly which reveals her lack of maturity and conviction. She is easily swayed by the influence of her family. Mrs. Sheridan finally allows Laura to take a basket of leftover food to the Scott’s. She decides against sending flowers which further reveals her condescending character. It also reveals Mrs. Sheridan as a selfish person who lacks respect for those beneath her class. Laura also thinks it is insulting to send leftover food to the grieving family. She begins to analyze her mother’s character in a different light. As she crosses over to the poverty stricken home of the Scotts she begins a metaphysical transformation into an adult with an independent mindset
Mansfield balances class distinction in different ways, the manicured gardens are an escape for the working class in the neighborhood. Even though it is the working class who provide labor. The Sheridan family is concerned with parties and dresses but they are interrupted repeatedly. Laura’s mind considers the perspective of both upper and lower class. The story has a fluid movement and an upbeat mood that distracts the reader from serious matters such as death and poverty. Another technique used to plant ironies is the way Mansfield manages the point of view literary style. The happiness at the beginning of the paragraph turns out to be complacency of the upper class. The stream of consciousness is a technique used to make words show how the character’s minds works. “The garden party” shows how Laura mind works and she shifts her perspectives and outlook of life.
Mansfield uses literary techniques. Imagery is used to create a festive scene of anticipation for an amazing party. This can be seen by the descriptions of the flowers and the events of the preparations for the party. Imagery has been used to describe Laura’s walk down the street to Mr. Scott’s home. It has also been used to describe them Scott’s house and his dead body. The use of imagery has been used in this context to show an extreme difference in the atmosphere and mood from the beginning of the story
Irony is another literary device that has been used to show Laura’s maturity despite being the youngest in the family. Laura’s conversation with her mother, brother, the workmen and the believed family shows use of dialogue as a literary style. Dialogue has been used to show Laura’s dynamic character and to characterize her different facets. Laura’s purple hat symbolizes the festive and the over the top wealth and atmosphere at the party. The party is out of place considering that there is a funeral just near the Sheridan home.
Mansfield has used many examples to show methods of characterization. This technique is evident in the description of how the characters act and think, what they say and what others think of them. The setting of the garden is on top of the hill which symbolizes higher class versus the lower class family that is at the bottom of the hill. Some of the themes evident throughout the short story are loss of innocence, social class expectations, social class differences, sympathy and empathy
Mansfield, Katherine. The Garden Party. Netlancers Inc. , 2012.
‘The Queen of Spades’ is a short story that was written by Alexander Pushkin about human greed. The story is about Hermann, an obsessed man that tries to get a secret about gambling to eliminate risk at the gaming table and gain everything. There are several that Pushkin explores in the short story ‘The Queen Of Spades’, however, the rather obvious to the reader are gambling, greed, obsession and death. This paper is going to examine these themes in detail.
The first theme is gambling; this can be seen when Lizaveta despite knowing Hermann or his intentions trusts him. This is a big gamble because she does not know Hermann came from, and she allows him into the house where the Countess lives (Helfant, 1999). She further takes another gamble when after realizing that Hermann had killed the Countess through fright, she still goes on to help him escape. Hermann also takes several gambles to get the secret card formula. He first takes a gamble into wooing Lizaveta; secondly he takes a gamble when he breaks into a strange house and confronting the Countess.
The Countess also gambled a lot, and she lost all her money in her youth, she, in fact, even gambled her husband’s money. However, after learning the secret card trick and winning back her losses, she quits gambling for good (Helfant, 1999). Hermann after learning the secret card formula goes to gamble at the highest table where the rich go to gamble. Despite winning in the first two days, he continues to gamble and eventually loses all his money. He, therefore, is on another level of gambling where he believes that because he has the right formula he cannot be able to make any mistakes. However, this statement is seen to be untrue as he loses all his money.
Greed is another major theme in ‘The Queen of Hearts’, the extent of Hermann’s greed is worrying. After learning the secret, he does everything in his power to try and obtain riches through gambling. He even kills and lies for it (Zott, 2003). Hermann attempts to become rich at the expense of others; he feels no remorse for his actions. Further, after learning the card secret, Herman in a greedy manner cheats out others vast sums of the gaming table. Greed can also be seen in the Countess in her youth. She was a serial gambler, and her greed led her to lose all the money that she had (Zott, 2003). After learning the card trick, she won back her possessions and her greed stopped despite having the secret formulae of the cards. Hermann after winning for the first two days is not satisfied with his winnings, and he stills more. This is what leads him to lose all his money on the third day when the formula does not work.
Obsessions are also a major theme in the story. After Hermann hears Tomsky’s tale, he becomes obsessed with uncovering the card secret and consequently winning the fortune (Zott, 2003). He is obsessed with knowing the card secret that it keeps him awake at night and on the occasions that he falls asleep, he dreams nothing about cards, piles of banknotes, green tables and heap of ducats. In fact, he is extremely obsessed with the secret of the cards that he pretends to be in love with the Countess’s ward to gain access to the woman’s house (Zott, 2003).
It reaches a point in his obsession where he even considers romancing the old Countess herself to get the secret. After he learns the secret, an obsession to make a lot of money for himself creeps up. The passion for winning more eventually consumes him (Wachtel, 2000). He can double his winning and, unfortunately, he loses everything after he mistakes a queen for an ace (Rosen, 1975). It is of the essence to realize that indeed even after being confined in the mental hospital after losing his mind, his obsession regarding the cards and the money continues. He continually repeats ‘Three, seven, ace Three, seven, Queen.' This, therefore, shows that even after losing his mind, his obsession does not die (Rosen, 1975).
Lizaveta is obsessed with getting love and this is the reason as to why she falls readily in love with Hermann. It can be seen even after Hermann kills the Countess by fright, there stills seem to be a problem in that Lizaveta still craves for Hermann. She helps him to escape, and this can be said to be a testament of her obsession.
Death is a major theme in the short story. When Hermann breaks into the Countess’s house, and demands the secret, and the Countess do not speak, he draws a pistol and scares her. The old day that is the Countess, unfortunately, dies of fright. Hermann after realizing that death has just occurred and that he plays a principal role when it comes to the death, he flees into the apartment of Lizaveta (Rosen, 1975). Hermann after losing all his money when he bets on the third day dies mentally. He is unable to perform basic functions and, for this reason; he is committed to an asylum. He is mentally dead, and he is not able to answer any questions, but can only be able to mutter ‘Three, Seven, Ace! Three, seven, Queen.’
The Countess despite her death gets the last laugh. She can conquer death as she appeared as both as a ghost and as the ‘Queen’ in the Queen of Spades (Wachtel, 2000). She, therefore, gets the perfect revenge for her murder which although unintentional, still happened.
In conclusion, the author can illuminate the themes of greed, obsession, death and gambling in a subtle and sometimes open way in the story. The themes are important as they depict several different situations of life and how they were handled by Hermann and those that were involved in the story.
"The Queen of Spades." Short Story Criticism. Ed. Lynn M. Zott. Vol. 55. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
Helfant, Ian M. "Pushkin's Ironic Performances as a Gambler." Aleksandr Pushkin 1799-1999 58.2 (1999): 371-392. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 189. Detroit: Gale, 2014. Literature Resource Center. Web. 20 Oct. 2015
Rosen, Nathan. "The Magic Cards in The Queen of Spades." Slavic and East European Journal 19.3 (1975): 255-275. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 189. Detroit: Gale, 2014. Literature Resource Center. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
Wachtel, Andrews. "Rereading The Queen of Spades." Pushkin Review 3 (2000): 13-21. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol. 99. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Literature Resource Center. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
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